In September 2016 the Spanish Army received its first NH90 tactical troop transport helicopters (TTH). Since then, a total of 15 NH90s have been delivered in Standard 1 and 2 configurations. Since becoming fully operational, these helicopters were deployed abroad for the first time in the summer of 2021, taking part in the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), supporting the Malian Army in Mali. 

The NH90s operated by the BHELMA III (1) of the FAMET (2) were tasked with providing tactical transport, support for special operations forces, combat recovery and combat SAR, electronic warfare, logistics support, medical evacuation operations and fire support with their two M3M MK3 12.7 mm machine guns.


Greater capacity for the FAMET

Brigadier Francisco Javier Marcos Izquierdo, Commander of the FAMET at the time, explained the incorporation of the NH90: “ This latest-generation helicopter (enhanced speed, range and navigation, all-weather capacity, more secure communications, greater load capacity at high altitude and in hot conditions, etc.) enhances our effectiveness when carrying out missions such as tactical transport, aerial assaults and other special operations in the most demanding conditions.”

Over the last years, the main focus has been on completing the training of pilots, specialists and on-board operators. More than 6,600 flight hours have been devoted to these tasks, while maintaining operational availability levels comparable to those of other fleets using this model. New mission systems have been progressively incorporated to optimise its features (ballistics protection, roller loading system, 12.7 mm machine guns, electronic warfare system, rappel and fast rope systems and a cargo hook). Meanwhile, the Standard 2 configuration of the Spanish NH90 includes new equipment such as the ultra-long-range electro optical/ infra-red system, the IRIDIUM satellite telephone and a double rescue hoist.



NH90 in flight

First overseas deployment

In relation to its first overseas deployment, the Commander of the FAMET said: "We prepared a contingent of NH90 helicopters to take part in the European Union Training Mission in Mali. This tactical group carried out support missions for decentralised training activities by EUTM Mali on the bases of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa).”


Six NH90s for the Spanish Air Force

The NH90 TTH also forms part of the Spanish Air Force fleet now, following the recent incorporation of the first helicopters for the 803rd Squadron of the 48th Wing, operating from the Cuatro Vientos Air Base in the province of Madrid. Today the Spanish Air Force operates 6 NH90s, which have already reached 2400 flight hours.They have reached the partial Final Operating Capability (FOC) in all their roles (Special Air Operations, SAR Air Search and Rescue and Personnel Recovery). In fact, during 2023, the Spanish Air Force will be part of the NATO Special Operations Rapid Reaction Force with their “Wolves”, as it is known the Spanish Air Force's NH90s. 

“The arrival of the NH90 for the 48th Wing represented an important milestone for the 803rd Squadron,” said Colonel Gonzalo Martí Regalado, Commander of the 48th Wing. “The unit has progressed from operating a second-generation helicopter (the Super Puma) to a fourth-generation helicopter, with all the improvements and changes to operations this implies. As well as being much lighter and sturdier due to the use of carbon fibre and fibreglass in its construction, it’s also equipped with fly-by-wire controls, which considerably improves the piloting experience.

NH90 in flight

There can be no doubt that the squadron has significantly enhanced its operational capabilities now. The NH90 is an all-weather helicopter capable of operating in adverse meteorological conditions, with integrated equipment such as a complete de-icing system (main rotor, tail rotor, horizontal stabiliser, windscreen and engines), FLIR thermal imaging, a weather radar and a greatly improved navigation system which allows take-off and landing in very low ceiling and visibility conditions.” Today, its NH90s have one of the best availability rates of all users worldwide.


Improved operational capacity

The 4-axis autopilot also provides invaluable assistance for pilots in critical situations, allowing manoeuvres which were previously restricted or very difficult to execute. Furthermore, the NH90’s power plant expands the operational envelope beyond that of the Super Puma. It offers cruise speeds of 150 knots compared to the 120 knots of the Super Puma with similar consumption, which reduces the time needed for missions and expands its radius of action. This and other features, such as the electro-optical system, the double hoist, the TACAN, an improved electronic warfare system, the folding blades of both the tail and main rotor, the rear ramp and hatch and the integrated TopOwl helmet, ensure the NH90 can operate in any scenario required by the Spanish Air Force, as well as allowing interoperability with the Spanish Navy.



“The incorporation of the NH90 by the Spanish Air Force constituted a major leap forward in terms of mission planning and execution. Its fully digital cockpit provides pilots with all the information they need, while the automatic mission planning system facilitates preparation of ground missions, easing pilot workloads by transferring information directly to the helicopter’s systems.summed up Colonel Gonzalo Martí.


1- BHELMA III: 3rd Manoeuvre Helicopter Battalion.

2- FAMET: the Spanish Army Airmobile Force.